With January 2018 being National Glaucoma Awareness Month, the Menlo Park senior caregivers would like to encourage you and everyone you know to have your eyes examined and tested for glaucoma. This is a dread disease which can affect people of all ages, even during infancy. However, seniors and people with a family history of glaucoma are at slightly greater risk than younger people, so it is even more important for the elderly to be tested annually or every two years.
Glaucoma Facts and Figures
Nearly four million people in this country alone are affected by glaucoma, although probably less than half of them are even aware of the fact. That’s because, at least for the most common type of the disease, open-angle glaucoma, there are very few warning signs which alert people to the fact that the disease is present, and slowly stealing away vision. It often takes years before people even recognize any sign of vision loss, and by that time the damage has been done, and no surgery or treatment can ever restore the vision loss caused by the disease.
Glaucoma is the #1 cause of blindness in America, and it is the second-most prevalent cause of blindness worldwide, so it is a very serious and very common disease. There are no real preventive steps which can be taken to avoid the disease, but early detection is the best way to prevent more damage, and halt vision loss before blindness can occur. Although few symptoms are ever noticed by those affected, there are some signs to look for in both types of glaucoma.
As mentioned above, this is by far the most common type of glaucoma, and it is also the least detectable. In its early stages, open-angle glaucoma is only noticed as a deficiency in peripheral, or side vision. This is the vision you use when you look out of the corners of your eyes at something, rather than straight ahead. When using your peripheral vision, you might notice there are patchy blind spots in the scene captured by your eyes, and it would be very easy to dismiss this as inconsequential, simply because you’re only glancing out of the corner of your eyes, and not looking directly at something.
However, for this very reason, the condition can go untreated for a very long time, because it might have no other impact than those patchy blind spots off to the side. By the time years have gone by and the disease has progressed significantly, you would then notice a kind of tunnel vision, even when looking directly ahead – nothing on either side will be visible. After more time goes by, even the tunnel vision will become more restricted, and there will be nothing visible at the sides, directly ahead, or anywhere else.
Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma
The ‘good’ news about this type of glaucoma is that it’s far more recognizable than its counterpart. The bad news is that this type of glaucoma occurs far less than the other type, so far fewer people have any kind of warning that the disease is in progress. In fact, the symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma are fairly strong and recognizable: severe headaches and eye pain or discomfort, redness around the eyes, blurry vision, and a tendency to observe halos around lights, either indoors or outside.
Sometimes severe nausea and vomiting also accompany these other symptoms which affect the eyes. If you should observe any of these symptoms in your vision, or in the vision of a senior or another person you know, you should immediately see an ophthalmologist for a glaucoma test. If the test is positive, steps can then be taken to halt the advance of the disease and prevent any further damage from occurring.
Get Checked for Glaucoma
If glaucoma goes untreated, it is likely to cause blindness in the individual affected by it, and at the very least damage to one or both eyes will occur which cannot be undone. For people who have little or no risk of developing glaucoma, getting an eye exam at least every four years is very important, so as to detect the disease in its earliest stages. People who already must wear glasses for either near-sightedness or far-sightedness will probably have an annual exam to determine any loss of visual acuity, so this is a good time to also get checked for glaucoma.
For seniors and others at greater risk, no more than two years should elapse in between checkups for glaucoma, although if you routinely have your eyes examined to check the effectiveness of your eyewear, an annual checkup is even better. The main thing to remember in this National Glaucoma Awareness Month is that glaucoma is a silent thief, stealthily degrading vision until the damage becomes permanent and unchangeable. This makes it extremely important for everyone to regularly have their eyes checked so that it can be detected and halted in time.